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USDA Approves Use of Genetically Engineered Corn for Ethanol

Posted Feb. 11, 2011 / Posted by: Nick Berning

For Immediate Release
February 11, 2010

Contact:
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748, nberning@foe.org
Kelly Trout, 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org

USDA Approves Use of Genetically Engineered Corn for Ethanol

Decision risks contamination of human food supply and threatens environment

Obama administration criticized for reckless boosting of dirty corn ethanol industry

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it has approved a form of genetically engineered corn created by the biotechnology corporation Syngenta Seeds, Inc. for use in ethanol production.

The USDA deregulated the crop, meaning it is not subject to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement or any restrictions on where and how it can be planted.

Eric Hoffman, biotechnology policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, criticized the USDA’s decision as “an irresponsible move that puts the interests of the biotechnology and polluting corn ethanol industries above public health and our environment.”

Hoffman warned, “This new strain of genetically engineered corn is not meant for human consumption, but, as we learned in the StarLink corn fiasco, contamination is bound to happen. The USDA decision threatens the safety of our food supply and the biodiversity of American agriculture.”

Eleven years ago, Friends of the Earth discovered that StarLink corn, which was not approved for human consumption, had contaminated the U.S. food supply. This discovery resulted in the recall of tens of millions of supermarket items. In 2003, a group of farmers was awarded a $110 million settlement due to the loss of foreign markets because of StarLink contamination.

Syngenta engineered its corn variety to more easily break down corn starch for ethanol production.

Kate McMahon, biofuels campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth, noted, “This type of genetically engineered corn would have no reason to exist if it were not for the massive mandate for biofuels consumption passed by Congress in 2007.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard, the law passed by Congress in 2007, requires the consumption of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022, 15 billion gallons of which is projected to be met with corn ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a report detailing the harmful impacts that this law continues to have on water, soil and air quality.

McMahon concluded, “The Obama administration is giving the green light to dirty and dangerous forms of corn ethanol despite significant health, food security and environmental concerns. Instead of continuing to risk the health of people and the planet, we should reexamine the existence of the biofuel mandate.”

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Friends of the Earth and our network of grassroots groups in 76 countries fight to create a more healthy, just world. Our current campaigns focus on clean energy and solutions to climate change, keeping toxic and risky technologies out of the food we eat and products we use, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

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